Bahay Kubo: The Quintessential Philippine House

Archian Design Architect Studio Iloilo - Cebu City

Bahay Kubo: The Quintessential Philippine House

The Filipino Bahay Kubo

The Filipino Bahay Kubo

Bahay kubo, kahit munti                      The kubo house, though small
ang halaman doon, ay sari-sari            The greens around, are variety
singkamas at talong. . .                        Jicama and eggplant . . .

The song bahay kubo sums up the simple life and beauty of the country life. For those not acquainted, the bahay kubo is the Filipino word for house. This type of house is the most common building type in South East Asia. It is built with thatch roof of dried leaves, bamboo posts and trusses. It is the most common dwelling in the Philippines’ rural setting. As the song goes:

Wonders of the Bahay Kubo
If you’d listen closely, you wouldn’t hear anything about the house from the song. Instead it celebrates the surrounding landscape: lush greens, fresh fruits and ripe vegetables. The bahay kubo is part of the cultural consciousness of the Filipino. This is the structural expression that babies were born to, the mothering roof cover over our ancestor’s heads. It is where the barangay councils were held, where ruler and friendships bloomed, where blood compacts were formed.

Modern Bahay kubo in Samal, Mindanao

Modern Bahay kubo in Samal, Mindanao

In the 16th Century, a huge wave of change was to change our long ingrained habits. Spanish foreigners came and with them they carried their culture and planted the seeds of Christianity. With it are cultural attitudes as siesta, formal education, building technologies and city planning. Hidden among the imports was an attitude of “contempt for the natives”. This attitude was an insecurity of contrast: cultured vs uncouth, learned vs ignorant, high nose and flat nose, white vs negro, classical architecture vs vernacular. This shows their way of life to be better than the natives.

A millenium has passed, the Spanish and the Americans have gone, but we still carry this cultural self-criticism within us. We could value foreign ways of living and despise our own. As Filipinos, we try to distance and disassociate with the uncultured, native and local.

Following the lead of western architecture, we closed our houses, built small windows and small eaves to look more Mediterranean and wonder why our houses felt hot. We built our facade with curtain glass  to look modern and wonder why it is hard to breath. We want to be “western” and “white”.

Thatch roof nipa hut modern interiors

Thatch roof nipa hut modern interiors

But Asian and Filipino is our identity. And though the old structures are archaic, time has tested the materials to show their resilience. Many people brand vernacular as not acceptable. It is for poor people. As we look into our cities, we are void of a distinct character. Our cities look a lot more like any other cities. There is also the loss of identity.

Today, Asia is rediscovering the bahay kubo – houses that open up to the greens around it. We use the tukod to build over overhangs to minimize the sun’s heat. If we look deeper into ourselves and accept our bahay kubo – our identity, there is a lot more to learn. There was an old proverb that said “Acceptance is the path to understanding one’s self.”

Stay with us, we will discuss how to adapt the bahay kubo to the modern world or want to build your own native retreat vacation house in the Philippines, contact Arch Ian Jay Bantilan. 😀

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Archian Design Architect Studio Iloilo - Cebu City

Please read our article: How to Build the Prettiest and Cheapest Home in the Philippines


About Archian
An Architect, Blogger and Strategic Thinker

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